I headed down to Florida on January 21st to run an 80 degree 100k and get a good dose of vitamin D, how could I refuse? I was familiar with the Long Haul as I placed 1st in last year’s 50 mile event. This year the Long Haul consisted of a 100 mile, 100k and 100 mile team relay. The Long Haul 100 as described by race director Jen Pearson is “an extreme race with an extreme cause”. This race was created by 3 Tampa Bay Area families to help in the reconstruction efforts to rebuild Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. The course was unique as the single track trails gave the feel as if running through the jungle of Costa Rica, I was in awe of this tropical vacation feel of the course.
A few of the open areas resembled corn fields but were planted with palm. The laps consisted of a 16.7 mile out & back with two lollipop loops that were repeated multiple times depending on the distance you were in. Only 20% of the race consisted of asphalt road and the rest was flat not so technical single & double track trail. Since joining the MPF Campmor Trail Running Team back in December 2011, I knew that upcoming races were going to be special. I was no longer racing for fun or starting with fears of completing the distance. Now I had reason to run strong supporting my team.
As I waited for the start I was thinking of how I was going to balance not going out too fast with the distance of 62 miles and doing my best.
I cracked a smile when noticing a 100 miler chug a beer before the sun came up and another mention that he was running on 2 hours sleep. After a short talk about the race, Jen Pearson signaled to start and we were off!. One runner bolted up the road as if he were running a 5k. I eased into a groove next to Tom Bassano, we chatted about how fast that guy went out and how doomed he would be if he was going for 100 that fast. This past summer Tom set the 12hour treadmill record & has ran across the USA in 48 days. He runs for the challenged athlete foundation and following him has been an inspiration.
As I headed up the short distance of pavement searching for trail I split ahead of the front pack in search of my breathe easy pace, to soon find myself running behind the ultra running legend Mike Morton. I met Mike before the start to find that his resume includes 1st place finishes at Western States, Vermont & MMT 100 to name a few. My pre-race plan was to keep my pace somewhere around 8:30 for the first half then pick things up for the last 30, inevitably this plan was toast once I set in behind Mike. For the first 10 miles I found myself running sub 7:00 min pace feeling great. I knew it was too fast for a 100k but my body kept telling me that I was fine. Mile 15 my average pace was 7:20 and I passed 26.2 with 3:20 on my watch. Eventually I found myself alone and in a solid groove taking in the beauty and bliss of ultra running, all systems were in check.
My nutrition & hydration plans were solid as they have been practiced over and over before this race. I made sure I stayed consistent with fluid / fuel, I knew if I fell behind my race would fall apart. They say never try something different during a race, however at 35miles my taste buds were calling for Gatorade, soon after switching my from my drink of choice I felt like a slug and watched my pace slowed down every mile. I concluded that drinking something unfamiliar was the problem, I kept forcing my body to push on. Soon after switching back to water I felt recharged.
When I crossed the 50 mile mark in 7:02, it ignited my endorphins and kicked my pace into a new gear. Last year I crossed the 50 mile finish line in 7:48 so this reassured me I was running strong. The last 12 miles went by quick and before I knew it I was on the paved road running to the finish in 1st place with a time of 8:48:30!
The long haul 100 was a fantastic event! Congratulations to all the runners, you looked great out there & thank you to all the organizers and volunteers, it really was a fantastic experience!
Thank you to the Long Haul 100 race director Jen & her husband Tim, MPF Campmor Trail Running Team, to my team captain Elizabeth for her fine coaching, my wife for her love & knowledge and my family for their continued support. For info on the Long Haul visit www.longhaul100.com.